If you’ve got an older sibling or cousin who still rocks a labret or eyebrow piercing, ask them if they know Frenzal Rhomb. Chances are, their story will start with “Dude,” and continue on to discuss one of the weird and wonderful tales about these Aussie punks. It could be 2004’s verbal jousting with Kyle Sandilands and Jackie-O, or the Rock Against Howard compilation album organised by the band’s guitarist, or that time the lead singer had a pig tapeworm egg removed from his brain (no bullshit).
Frenzal Rhomb have achievements other than being the most hospitalised band in the world. Since 1992, they’ve had many artistic achievements despite being banned from a number of radio stations and music retailers. The lads have toured with names including The Offspring, Bad Religion, NOFX and Blink 182, and have toured in the US, UK, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Israel and Taiwan. Guitarist Lindsay McDougall and frontman Jason Whalley also made up the two-man triple j breakfast team Jay and the Doctor from 2004 to 2007, and during their time implemented segments including Happy Monday and The Friday Fuckwit. The foursome have released 9 studio albums, 3 of which have entered the top 20 on the ARIA Albums Chart. Last year, the group celebrated 25 years of Frenzal Rhomb, and toured Australia playing a set list selected by fans via their Facebook page. Latest musical offering Hi-Vis High Tea has reached 9th position on the ARIA Albums Chart since its release in May this year. To celebrate, the boys are currently touring Oz with fellow Aussies Totally Unicorn, and last Friday night they graced The Gov with their presence.
I’ve never seen Totally Unicorn play before, and the first thing I felt when they started playing was scared, and deaf. These guys are bizarre and they are loud. Genre wise, the group are a mixture of metalcore, grindcore and mathcore (which isn’t hardcore math nerds, much to this writer’s disappointment) and good God they do not hold back. The band is highly energetic and completely unpredictable, with partial and full nudity being a set staple.
I won’t bullshit you, I honestly don’t know what the boys played. I’ve listened to them on Spotify since to try and jog my memory, but I just can’t. Personally, I think even fans of Totally Unicorn would’ve been hard pressed to remember what the hell they played. Everyone was too focused on watching the five-piece being completely fucked up. At one point, frontman Drew Gardner got off the stage and descended into the mosh pit, microphone cable and all, and began singing and writhing around on the floor whilst wearing a skin-tight fuchsia unitard and swaddled in streamers. They’re wholly captivating, and trying to explain their set to those who haven’t seen it is like trying to explain what water tastes like. Totally Unicorn fulfilled their duty as a support act and then some, leaving audience absolutely speechless in the best way possible.
Clad in their own hi-vis vest merch, Frenzal graced the stage to an audience desperate to hear their new material live. Giving punters exactly what they wanted, the lads opened with Classic Pervert before moving onto Ray Ahn Is My Spirit Animal. Next up was the lead single off Hi-Vis High Tea. The name of said single contains a word that’s strictly ruled out in our language guidelines, but you can read the lyrics here, and watch the song’s music video here to get the gist of things.
Much like a good comedian, turning simple observations or mundane aspects of life into something of amusement is one of Frenzal Rhomb’s specialties. Due to the speed of the majority of their tracks, it can sometimes be hard to miss the nuanced lyrics, especially live, however these four are incredibly clever. I’m Shelving Stacks (As I’m Stacking Shelves) is about working a mundane job under the influence, and I’m Waiting For The Postman laments the difficulties of buying drugs nowadays and hoping your dark web order arrives without an ASIO escort. School Reunion, however, was less subtle and easier to follow, with audience members collectively cringing remembering their own school reunions and similar social scenarios where tedious small talk is inevitable.
Another of Frenzal’s specialties is being able to whip a crowd into an absolute frenzy. Borderline violent in nature, the mosh pit isn’t for amateurs or those who’ve taken a punt on seeing whoever happens to be playing in The Gov’s back room on a Friday. Around 50 individuals took over the floor space and proceeded to essentially beat each other up with Frenzal’s live performance as a backing track. Diehard fans clamoured over one another and ripped hands gripping the stage barrier in order to get closer to the band. Whalley obliged, and leaned against the barrier into the crowd, sharing the mic and allowing the swarming masses to stroke his colossal dreadlock.
Going back to some of their older material, the boys launched into Mummy Doesn’t Know You’re A Nazi, Bird Attack and I Miss My Lung back to back. During a brief interlude, a shoe was thrown onto the stage, narrowly missing Whalley. The frontman picked up the shoe and proceeded to discuss its type with McDougall as well as drummer Gordy Forman and Adelaide-dwelling bassist Tom Crease. McDougall suggested that the shoe was a plimsoll, with Whalley then declaring the shoe was indeed “the plimmest of all solls”. The group launched back into more archived tracks, pulling out You Are Not My Friend, Ship Of Beers and 5000 Cigarettes. When My Baby Smiles At Me I Go To Rehab and Never Had So Much Fun followed, and finished off the night with 1996’s hit Punch In The Face.
With the wait increasing between each new release, some might feel as though the punk band lifestyle is catching up with the lads, however their live performance put any fears of disbanding to rest. Frenzal Rhomb are showing no signs of burning out after nearly 30 years. They’re still drawing the same force and fury from their fans as they were at Big Day Out in 1997. Arguably, the foursome have changed and grown older, and some of their songs are deeper and more meaningful than those penned in the band’s early days. Regardless, Frenzal Rhomb are still the same 4 snotty punks from the 90s who are no strangers to controversy, and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Images via AK Photography and The Gov